Standard Deviations vol. 8
X-Men: Messiah Complex

Posted by under *like, Comics |

In the last edition of Standard Deviations, we took a look at a set of variant covers for Marvel’s House of M series released in 2005. The Scarlet Witch was a central figure in that series as she will be in this year’s Avengers versus X-Men. Also central to AvX  is Hope Summers, the first mutant born since the Witch’s “no more mutants” curse. In the interest of equal time, this go around we’ll be taking a look the variant covers that shipped with 2007’s Messiah Complex, the story that introduced Hope to the Marvel Universe. The story stands as an important part of X-history and a who’s who of top artists turned in some beautiful cover artwork for the thirteen-part crossover.

Messiah Complex was a crossover series in the truest sense of the term. Unlike many modern event comics that have shipped as five to eight-issue miniseries, Messiah Complex opened with a one-shot and continued into the pages of the regularly shipping issues of four of Marvel’s ongoing X-Men series. Using the creative teams already in place on those books, the story was a well organized collaboration, and more importantly it was published weekly. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was by this series as it unfolded, but it’s enough to say I found myself in a local comic shop every Wednesday on my lunch break during the three months that it shipped.

Messiah Complex would have been perfect material for My Latest Distraction as it was released. In fact, it’s a big part of what inspired me to finally approach Standard Deviations as a regular series as it allowed me to revisit some of my favorite stories that were published before we had the site. This series was really just about perfect to me in its execution and I would love to talk all about it, but for now I’ll keep the focus on the variant covers that shipped for each issue. Four superstar artists, Marc Silvestri, Simone Bianchi, Jim Cheung, and J. Scott Campbell, each turned in three cover images for the series to accompany David Finch’s regular editions. The distribution of the covers to the different books was interesting as each artist had a chance to draw covers for three of the four different titles that were involved in the crossover. Also interesting is the fact that the ratios for the variants adjusted from 1:20 to 1:15 to 1:10 over the three months of the event, likely fitting nicely with order numbers for each book.

Mark Silvestri drawing the X-Men again for these covers was a real treat. He was the regular artist on Uncanny X-Men during a favorite era of my X-Men collecting when the team was based in the Australian outback, and through some of their most memorable crossovers in Fall of the Mutants and Inferno. Silvestri turned in five different covers for Messiah Complex (including images that were used for three of the opening one-shot’s five covers) and as a set are my favorite of the variants for this series. I particularly like that he had a chance to draw teams for three of his covers featuring the X-Men, the Marauders and what would become a new incarnation of X-Force when the series ended.

Italian artist Simone Bianchi was not on my radar prior to Messiah Complex and I distinctly recall his variants really capturing my attention as the series was shipping. There’s a lushness to his work that I really enjoy and it was nice to see single figures getting most of the attention on his covers.

J. Scott Campbell’s Messiah Complex variants were some of his first Marvel covers to hit the shelves after signing an exclusive contract with the company in 2006. I recall being very excited to see that he would be working on the X-Men, but ultimately found his variants for the series a bit disappointing. They’re a fine set of images on their own, but they stand in sharp contrast stylistically to the other variants in this set.

Jim Cheung’s Messiah Complex variant cover images are the least consistent from book to book of this set in terms of composition, but they’re all very effective images for the books they’re paired with. Cheung’s cover for X-Factor #27 featuring Cable and Professor X is easily my favorite of this entire set.

Revisiting these covers certainly brings back some fond memories and has me reviewing my wish list for books to add to my collection. However, as with House of M, I have to say that the regular covers for this story win out for me again even with the inclusion of variants by an old favorite like Silvestri. The cohesive look and  connection to the story inside are a huge part of what makes them preferable in my eyes and the awesome work of David Finch here is a big part of what made me a fan of his art. His image of Cable and Hope on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #493 is one of my favorite cover images of all time and something that resonated with me throughout the Cable series that debuted following Messiah Complex.

Looking ahead to this year’s AvX event, the cover to Avengers versus X-Men #0 (in stores 3/28/12 with a preview running in a number of books throughout the month) indicates the Hope Summers, the “messiah” child introduced in Messiah Complex, will be a major factor in the upcoming confrontation between Marvel most popular super teams. While Hope was an infant during Messiah Complex, she grown to be a very well defined character in the Marvel Universe and her connection to the Phoenix will finally be explained during AvX. She’s become a favorite character of mine through her connection to Cable and I couldn’t’ be happier to see her on the cover to AvX #0 along with the Scarlet Witch. The two of them have driven a lot of the stories I’ve been reading for the last few years and I really believe AvX could be deliver a great story with tremendous history behind it. Regardless, it’s sure to have its share of variant covers and you’ll know we’ll be talking about them here soon.

Read more entries from the Standard Deviations series on MyLatestDistraction.


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